Laetare Sermon, 2017

Laetare, 2017
John 6:1-15
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

One of my favorite words—because I only thought I knew what it meant—is the word “condescending.”

Tell me, is it good or bad to be condescending?

And what does it mean?

Normally, and this was the only way I understood the word, normally, when we speak of condescension, we mean to say that someone acts like he’s so much higher up than we are, that he’s better than us, that he deigns to dwell with us, for the briefest of moments, and we’re so much better off for having been in his presence.

Pastors, especially, I think, can be guilty of this. So if I ever have or if ever do condescending magnanimity, please talk to me about it.

But, anyway, that’s what I thought condescension was—patronizingly looking down upon someone and thinking they were better for it.

But, today, we remember and behold our Lord’s condescension, how he comes down, from heaven to earth, and waits upon His Creation as though we were all lords.

True God, He does come down to us—to serve us.

Holy and Righteous, He is the author and perfecter of life, of our faith, of all things.

Jesus deigns to dwell with His Creation—the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

And we are, most certainly, better off in His presence.

That’s the good kind of condescension—for our benefit, in HIs mercy, He comes to us to serve us.

Behold, our Lord’s generosity: the people eat their fill, there’s baskets full of leftovers, and, though it was more, certainly, than a man could earn in a year, the people eat for free.

Behold our Lord’s compassion: He feeds an ungrateful and unprepared people in the wilderness.

Behold, how our Lord’s love proceeds: He has the people sit down—so He can wait on them.

Behold the generous, compassionate, and loving condescension of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Passover was at hand. Most of those 5,000 men, plus women and children, who had skipped out into the desert seeking a miracle were probably pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, and tensions would’ve been high.

John the Baptizer had just been murdered by Herod. The Sanhedrin was plotting against Jesus. Rumors of war, of Elijah’s return, and of the end times themselves were abundant.

Jesus, accumulating quite a reputation, was the obvious center of the storm.

Those 5,000 men, plus women and children, were not His disciples. It’s unlikely that many of them, if any of them, had been baptized by John.

We certainly don’t know.

It’s equally unlikely that they understood Jesus to be the Messiah.

They wander out into the desert, beyond the care of their own provisions, far enough that they might perish on the way home.

None of this is to their credit.

They were flighty and irresponsible. They were like sheep without a shepherd. They knew not what they sought.

Behold the Lord’s compassion: He feeds an ungrateful and unprepared people in the wilderness. And if they were unworthy of the miracle before it happened, if they didn’t deserve the bread and fish that He gave when they were hungry, they’re worse with full bellies.

They declare Jesus to be the Prophet like Moses come into the world, the fulfillment of the Passover, but then they keep talking.

They seek to seize Him and, by force, to make Him king. To them, He’s the goose that lays the golden eggs and nothing more.

But the Passover was at hand—more than they knew, that was true.

Blood and terror, promise and rescue, deliverance from both slavery and death were all at hand in the One who gave bread and fish to eat while on the way to Jerusalem to see the Son of Man lifted up.

Jesus is the Son of Man who defeats and crushes the serpent Pharaoh’s head, who baptizes us not in an Egyptian river but in water and blood from His side, whose death on the Cross sets His people free.

As it was for those 5,000, plus women and children, so it is for us. Do you see how he condescends to us—comes to us, from heaven above to earth below.

———[[ Today, March 25, is the Annunciation of our Lord. This should be one of the highest feast days in all of the Church, because it’s the first day that God was literally with us.

“The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), which means “God with us.”

If we do a good job confessing Jesus’ crucifixion—if we decide to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified—we must also confess that the life He gave for us began in the womb of His mother nine months before His birth—so, March 25.

In 2011, a billboard was unveiled in New York City that said this: “The most dangerous place for an African American is…” And can you guess what the answer is?

“…in the womb.”

Planned Parenthood responded to this, saying, that it was an “offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women [and that it was] a divisive message around race to restrict access to medical care.”

Planned Parenthood doesn’t mind African-American women receiving medical care—so long as it’s an abortion or sterilization or birth control.

Hiding death and murder behind the word “choice,” Planned Parenthood attempts to make everyone’s life better by getting rid of unwanted children.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, thought that “the greatest sin in the world [was] bringing children into the world—that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically…”

And that’s what it’s about—the practicality of it.

Since an unborn baby’s beating heart can’t vote, politicians are okay with someone injecting poison into it. If the state pays for the procedure, the mother may even vote your way.

Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. She sought to purify the human race by getting rid of the unfit—sterilizations, birth control, and, now, abortions for those she thought worthless, present-day “deplorables.”

A disproportionate number of Planned Parenthood “clinics” are in Black neighborhoods. And a disproportionate number of abortions are performed on Black mom’s.

Because that’s healthcare, and they need it. Apparently.

Lord have mercy.

Our response should be this—men, you should live your lives, teach your children, and even teach your friends that women don’t have any right to choose to murder an unborn child.

You don’t have that choice.

If you’ve made that choice, if someone you know has made that choice, don’t soften God’s Law by hiding behind a court case that should be overturned.

Instead, flee for refuge to God’s infinite mercy.[[———

The Lord has compassion on His afflicted.

Our faith has not been pure. Our hope has sputtered. Our love has so often failed. We sin. We’re victims of our sins and of the sins of others.

Wars and rumors of war, loss of religious liberty, threats regarding oppressive taxes, legal murder, and on and on.

These things are all around us.

We are in the desert, far from care, as sheep without a shepherd.

And our Lord has compassion.

He would have us sit down. Stop fussing. Don’t worry.

He would have us rest and receive from Him mercy enough—and to spare—for all our sins.

Trusting in this goodness and great mercy, in His holy promises, dependent upon His compassion, we come to the Sacrament of the Altar, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we come to Him as the sick to the Physician, as the hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of Life, and as beggars—unfit and deplorable according to the world—as beggars to the God who declares us desired and holy, the immaculate Bride of Christ.

So, marvel that while we have great need, and are in many troubles, so also, by faith, we have great desire for what He gives.

He preaches the Law that kills us where we sit. He preaches the Gospel, making us alive.

He exposes our sins to wake us up from sleep.

He makes us hungry in the desert of this world so that we would seek satisfaction in His love.

We don’t go to Him.

He comes to us, condescends to us, in His Word made flesh and blood, bridging earth and heaven.

Who are we that He should offer Himself to us?

How is that He condescends, He comes, to us insignificant folk hidden here, unnoticed by the powerful and beautiful, forgotten by the wealthy?

When we’re nothing to the world, how can we be anything to Him?

The Body and Blood of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is God’s exclamation mark in response.

We’re His beloved sheep in need of a Shepherd, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

We’re pilgrims on our way to the Passover, where Jesus gives us HIs Body and Blood to eat and drink for our forgiveness.

We’re the orphans who desperately need a Father. And, behold, the Love of our Father.

We confess not only our unworthiness, but also His goodness, and we praise His mercy and give thanks for His immense love.

Rejoice, then. Sing His praises.

What He’s done, He’s done in compassion, for us, without our aid and merit.

The love of Christ never fails. The wealth of His mercy is never exhausted. Rejoice! For He’s turned His face upon you, and He beams with compassion.

As He feeds you today, let it be as great, as new, as sweet to you as if it’s the very day that Christ became man in the womb of the Virgin…

…or hanging on the Cross, the very day He suffered and died for the salvation of man…

…or the very day in which He rose and spoke everlasting peace to His disciples.

Let the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ be to you what God says they are—forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Strength for the body and for the soul.

Rejoice, dear Christian friends. Easter is coming.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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